'Prevention is important, but more support is needed when farm accidents happen’

   07 Jul 2016

Chairman speaks on importance of community spirit, farm safety, and mental health.

As one of Europe’s largest agricultural events, the Tullamore Show & AIB National Livestock Show, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style with a guest-list of over 60,000 expected to attend on Sunday, August 14.

It promises to be the best year yet for the hugely successful event with a prize-fund of €168,000 across 1,000-plus competitions in everything from livestock to baking to inventions.

As always, there will also a be a host of other attractions for all the family, including a Country Music Jamboree, starring Michael English; a range of demonstrations, featuring a cooking tutorial from Neven Maguire; fashion shows; a vintage car and machinery display; a rare animal breeds’ corner alongside 700 trade stands.

Held on the beautiful 250-acre Butterfield Estate, the Tullamore Show has grown from humble beginnings to an annual institution - primarily on the back of hard work of countless volunteers.

Now in his final year as Chairman, Rodney Cox, explains: “The Show simply wouldn’t be feasible without hundreds of volunteers each year, primarily from the farming community, who give up their time to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“Everyone, from the executive committee to the parking stewards, buys into what it means to the local area. There’s a lot of pride and love behind making it a success, but a lot of hard work, as well. It’s a tribute to the can-do attitude and cooperative spirit of the farming community that we’re still here and growing after 25 years. I believe we’ll be saying the same thing for our 50th anniversary.”

Having become accustomed to flying around the Show-site by quad, tractor, and foot over the years, 2015 was a strange experience for the lifelong cattle farmer after he was confined to a wheelchair following a farm accident.

He explains: “I was just guiding a few cows through the cattle crush, something I’ve done thousands of times, when one of them kicked my leg. It broke in a few places; meaning a long, frustrating recovery. I’m still on crutches so I can’t do much around the farm. Thankfully, my son, Craig, has been able to pick up the slack or it would’ve been a lot worse.

“A lot of attention has been drawn to the issue of farm safety in recent years, and rightly so. We often hear about the fatal accidents, but there must be hundreds of serious injuries to farmers every year that go unreported. I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to not take your health and well-being for granted. If you work with animals or machinery, one lapse of concentration can cost you very dearly.

“I will say that I’ve a bit of a personal grievance with the support systems in place for farmers in my situation. While prevention information is very important, I do think the relevant agencies need to do more to help farmers and their families when an accident actually occurs. Being unable to work leads to a lot of complications and worry in a farming household. I’ve tried to get support and advice from a number of places, but to no avail. Having spoken to other farmers, I’m certainly not the only one.”

Asked for his thoughts on the issue of mental health in the farming community, the 52 year-old says: “That’s another topic we need to be more aware of and open about. I think a lot of the stigma surrounding mental health has faded in Ireland in recent years, but I think farmers are still a bit reluctant to talk about things like depression and isolation.

“Farmers tend to want to be self-reliant, but we’re only human. It can be a tough, lonely existence at times; especially for those who live alone. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out for help, whether that’s from someone you trust or, if that’s not an option, a professional counsellor or one of many free services available, like calling the Samaritans – even if it’s just to get something off your chest, it can help a lot.”

The full schedule of competitions is now available on the Show’s website (www.tullamoreshow.com) - with July 20 the final date for online entries. Those interested in attending can save up to 20 per cent on tickets by buying them online before the day of the Show.